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Notes From the Field: Readers’ Questions on Deep-Ocean Biology

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After a smooth cruise into San Diego, where Atlantis would be embarking on her next expedition, the science teams went their separate ways, cars brimming with cooler-packed samples. We’ve had a couple of weeks to sort things out (a process which involved many brushes with frostbite, as samples were carefully arranged in freezers set at minus 80 degrees Celsius), and we are continuing to design and conduct experiments to tease out the secrets of the Hydrate Ridge ecosystem.

For my part, it’s been an honor to participate in this exciting expedition and share my experiences with you. I appreciate all of your encouraging comments and insightful questions, and hopefully the strange, fascinating world of deep-ocean biology has sparked a Google search or two. Understanding our oceans is critical in this age of global environmental change, and we’re really just beginning that journey.

And with that, I’d like to address a few of the science-based questions that came up in the comments.
Q.

Fascinating life-forms, these creatures that do not need sun. Apparently, quite a few have been discovered during the last decades and their adaptability to various sources of “life energy” is remarkable.

Do they have something in common? That is, the lowest part of the chain that actually creates organic material (proteins?) from inorganic sources. How did they evolve? Do they have relatives, close or distant, in the world outside the darkness?
— Ladislav Nemec, Big Bear, Calif.
 
 

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